Monday, October 11, 2010

Women's Agenda, Pillar No.11: The Regional & International Context

Background to the Thematic Pillar: Uganda in the Regional and International Contexts

Uganda subscribes to many regional, sub-regional and international instruments which call for the strengthening of good governance and the enjoyment of women’s rights. The principle of promoting gender equity, equality and justice is enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution, the Constitutive Act of the African Union; the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights; the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 1325 (2000); various Ugandan laws and other regional and international instruments. By being a party to these instruments, Uganda underlines her commitment to pay dues, ensure domestication and implementation of these instruments and provide the necessary resources. This also includes the full participation of Ugandan women in regional and international structures, including appointment to represent and participate as equal partners in promoting good governance as well as in the nation’s social, political, cultural and economic development.

Government should put special emphasis on the development of its human resources in order for it to be able to compete favourably and benefit from the gains of regionalization and internationalization. Women should be positioned strategically to participate in decision-making and other opportunities presented at the EAC, AU, APRM/NEPAD Secretariat, UN agencies and the UN.

11.2 Key Issues within the Thematic Pillar: Uganda in the Regional and International Contexts

Regional and International Principles, Codes and Standards

While many international codes and standards have been signed and ratified in the past, many more with a bearing on the protection and promotion of women’s human rights are yet to be signed or ratified. These include: the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (2002); African Union Non-Aggression and Common Defence Pact (2005); the Protocol of the Court of Justice of the African Union (2003); and the African Union Convention for the Elimination of Mercenaries in Africa (1977).

On the other hand, the international conventions, codes and standards that have been signed, ratified, domesticated and implemented, have not been systematically disseminated and popularised among state and non-state stakeholders. Furthermore although there are seven major international codes and standards, which have been identified for domestication, government has made limited progress in their domestication.

Uganda is in arrears with many of the international and regional bodies to which it belongs and this limits its capacity to effectively engage, sometimes even leading to the loss of rights to vote. Key among these are the APRM, the African Union, East African Community, NEPAD . Failure to remit subscriptions on time not only questions the country’s commitment to international treaties, but also its ability and that of its citizens to effectively engage in such spaces.

Regional Economic Blocs

Uganda belongs to a number of regional economic blocks, the EA Customs Union being the most recent. The Government must safeguard its citizens especially women, from the negative effects of the expanded markets, free trade zones and address itself to concerns about citizenship so as to ensure that all Ugandans, fully benefit from these regional economic blocks.

The Change we want to See

1. Constitution of an Inter-Ministerial Committee and the expeditious implementation and initiation of a process of integrating international conventions, standards and codes into policy and legislation

2. 50:50 gender parity in appointments and postings to strategic regional and international bodies

3. Adherence to periodic reporting as specified in the regional and international treaties and in such reports, capture and address women and gender specific concerns

4. Domestication of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) and allocation of sufficient resources for its implementation

5. Timely provision of information on available opportunities to women and link women’s production areas to markets in the region

Women's Agenda, Pillar No.10: Institutional Mechanisms

Background and Key Issues to the Thematic Pillar: Institutional Mechanisms for the Achievement of Gender Equality

The Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development (MGSLD) is the government machinery for promoting the mainstreaming of gender and women’s rights. The Ministry through various laws, policies and programmes in partnership with the other MDA’s, has embarked on ensuring gender equity and equality. The establishment of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), development of gender oriented sectoral policies, gender guidelines, legal instruments and the gender budgeting initiatives, provides Uganda with a good foundation for mainstreaming gender and promoting the rights of women.

However, there are a number of challenges regarding the institutional mechanism, which hinder it from being effective in achieving gender equity and equality. More needs to be done to increase women’s access to economic opportunities and to build capacities, funding and institutional support to the MGLSD. Access to productive resources for the youth and women should be prioritised, as a means of eradicating poverty and creating sustainable livelihoods and economic growth.

The ultimate success of gender equity and equality can only be measured from results at the lower levels. Hence, the focus should be on increasing local revenue for Local Governments and the promotion of broad-based participation in development, by all stakeholders at all levels. Other issues for consideration are: decentralization, a review of the tendering and procurement processes; capacity building of elected leaders and local communities on the effective participation of women, youth and PWDs in planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation processes.

The MGLSD is too congested with too many marginalised groups and under resourced in terms of human, financial and logistical support. This state of affairs undermines the principle/primary function of promoting mainstreaming gender and women’s rights, in all government institutions. Government needs to review this and develop a structure that is more effective in addressing these gender concerns.

The Change we want to See

1. Decongestion of the MGLSD through institutional restructuring at Ministry level so as to make the MGLSD more effective

2. Establishment of the position of Gender Officers to ensure gender mainstreaming in all sectors and ministries

3. Increased budgetary and financial support to the current MGLSD, to enable it play its role effectively

Women's Agenda, Pillar No.9: Peace, Human Security and Dignity

9.1 Background to the Thematic Pillar: Peace, Security and Human Dignity

Conflict is endemic in Uganda and is manifested through the various land conflicts, gender, tribal /ethnic conflicts, resource conflicts and political violence fanned by the existing cycle of violence at the border/Great Lakes region. Peace, human security and dignity are critical determinants of sustainable development. Where there is conflict, the people that tend to suffer most are women.

The Government of Uganda has adopted and began the implementation of UN Resolution 1325 and UN Resolution 1820, which address the needs of women in all peace keeping operations, as well as the broader issues of women’s roles in building and maintaining peace. The Goma Declaration recognises violence as a threat to national and regional security and development and that it propagates the spread of HIV/AIDS, which in turn affects productivity and retards development.

The insecurity we experience as a country, is manifested through the violence experienced in the home and the community.

9.2 Key Issues Within the Thematic Pillar: Peace, Security and Human Dignity

Holistic Nature of Conflict

Conflict should be addressed from a holistic perspective because peace does not mean the absence of war. The PRDP clearly states that the manifestation of conflict goes beyond the presence of war.

The way women and men experience conflict is different. In Uganda, women bear the greater brunt of conflict both in the private and public spheres and are therefore in a permanent state of insecurity even when there is no war in the country. Permanent insecurity is manifested through the high magnitude of; domestic violence; personal insecurity and failure to have control over personal resources; food insecurity; sexual violence; mental torture and limited power of decision making, which affects their ability to lead. Conflict therefore prevents women from participating in leadership because it affects their personal and bodily integrity.

The Change We Want to See

1. Adequate resourcing and implementation of the UN 1820 and Goma Declarations and integration of the UN Res 1325, with government policies and plans such as PRDP, NDP, etc

2. Development of a policy and regulations to guide the creation of districts and administrative units, to limit sources of national tension and unrest

3. Establishment of a Reparations Fund for women with a special focus on mental health

4. Resourcing, implementation and monitoring of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement 2006

5. Review of the PRDP and its implementation, to ensure that it is well resourced and that it prioritises women’s concerns

6. Support to the provision of legal aid services to women in the Greater North

7. Assessment of the land question in the context of the war, taking cognizance among others of gender, poverty, culture, patriarchy and the communal land tenure system of ownership, prevalent in the Greater North

8. Development of an affirmative action policy to promote the education of the girl child from the Greater North, at all levels, including tertiary institutions.

9. Promotion of non-violent forms of conflict resolution and integration of gender perspectives in the resolution of armed or other conflicts. Women being peacemakers and preservers of the social order must be included in peace keeping, conflict resolution, and management at all levels.

10. Promotion and establishment of national reconstruction and reconciliation initiatives among people from all regions and of all political persuasions.

Women's Agenda, Pillar No.8: Women with Special Needs

Background to the Thematic Pillar: Women with Special Needs

Whereas the Constitution of Uganda (Chapter 4 Article 21 and 25) provides that all persons are equal before and under the law a gap exists between theory and practice the rights of women with special needs are abused either by omission or commission. Women with special needs often have limited access to functional literacy facilities, especially persons with special learning needs due to lack of trained literacy instructors in braille, sign language and tactile and curriculums that are based towards the majority of women. Women with special needs are prone to: sexual abuse; being unheard or unseen and abused by state and non-state actors. Often they are targets of all kinds of experiments and researches that impact on their wellbeing and social exclusion and justified normalised discrimination. They hence become more vulnerable even within the same social group as women.

Social security systems do not address the needs of women with special needs adequately and tend to focus on the women in the formal sector or within the majority of women.
8.2 Key Issues Within the Thematic Pillar: Women With Special Needs

Special Protection for Elderly Women

Social security for elderly men and women has become an issue of national and community concern, especially with the high HIV mortality rates, that lead to a high dependency ration of orphans on, older women. Elderly women have no social protection and yet Article 22 of the Maputo Protocol requires State Parties to provide protection to elderly women and to take specific measures commensurate with their physical, economic and social needs, as well as their access to employment and professional training. The Protocol ensures the right of elderly women to freedom from violence, including sexual abuse, discrimination based on age and the right to be treated with dignity.

Special Protection of Women with Disabilities

While Uganda has enacted a Disability Act, no regulations have been put in place to operationalise it, so as to ensure its effective implementation. The right of women with disabilities to employment, access, learning materials and sexual rights are not respected. They face stigma and often are denied the professions of their choice and yet the Maputo Protocol (Art 23 a and b), requires State Parties to ensure the protection of women with disabilities taking specific measures commensurate with their physical, economic and social needs. Women with disabilities should be supported to access employment, professional and vocational training, as well as to participate in decision-making. In addition the Protocol ensures their right to freedom from violence, including sexual abuse, discrimination based on disability and the right to be treated with dignity.

Girls and Women in Detention

The tough and appalling conditions in some of the prisons around the country are evidence that the rights of women in detention are not being adhered to. Many women serve their sentences with their children with little or no special provisions for their care and wellbeing.

Uganda committed to ensuring the rights of pregnant or nursing women in detention, by providing them with an environment which is suitable to their condition and their right to be treated with dignity (Maputo Protocol Art 24(b).


With the rising levels of HIV/AIDS, the burden of orphans, land grabbing, the lacuna in the law regarding women’s land rights and the inexistent social security systems, widow’s burdens are increasing, rendering them very vulnerable. This is contrary to the obligations that the Government of Uganda committed itself to under Art. 20 and 21 of the Maputo Protocol. This article provides that a widow shall have the right to an equitable share in the inheritance of the property of her husband and to continue to live in the matrimonial house. In case of remarriage, she shall retain this right if the house belongs to her or she has inherited it. Women and men shall have the right to inherit, in equitable shares, their parents' properties.

The Change We Want to See

1. Investment in research to inform policy and legislation for the provision of functional Social Security for elderly women especially those outside the formal sector

2. Sign language interpreters mainstreamed in all forms of official communication

3. Expeditious development of the Disability Policy and Operational Guidelines /Regulations for the implementation of the Disability Act

4. Women in detention at all levels supported to fulfill their reproductive roles and the protection of children born in detention

5. Protection of girls in juvenile centers from sexual harassment

6. Retention and completion of school, by the girl child with special needs

7. Enactment of enabling laws to operationalise article 33 of the Constitution of Uganda, so as to protect widows from cultures and traditions that are degrading and harmful

8. Concerns of women with special needs mainstreamed in all laws, policies and programmes, as well as provision of adequate funding to address these needs.

Women's Agenda, Pillar No.7: Information and Communication Technologies

7.1 Background to the Thematic Pillar: Information and Communication Technologies

In the last twenty years Uganda has witnessed an ICT revolution, with regards to communication, information sharing, proliferation of media houses and the democratisation of information. There has been an upsurge in: the access to mobile phones, internet usage, and availability of private owned television and radio stations, that are largely due to the liberalisation of the ICT sector. While the private sector has readily embraced the ICT age, Government has been slow in promoting the use of ICT in service delivery and the communication of government policies and programmes, especially in the rural areas.

It is important for Government to develop and implement policies and programmes to promote the usage of ICT amongst the population and more especially by women. ICTs are an effective mechanism for expanding knowledge and access to information for rural women and can enhance their abilities to market their produce and negotiate prices, thus increasing their share of resources.

7.2 Key Priorities Within the Thematic Pillar: ICT

Women and information technology

ICTs offer enormous potential for transforming the lives of women. They provide access to training and skills for political, economic and social participation. They also provide a direct means for women to network, share information and enhance their abilities to negotiate for their rights. Despite these advantages the majority of women in Uganda have not benefited from ICT. ICT coverage and usage is dismally low in the rural areas, where the majority of women and girls reside. This is mainly due to the high cost of: IT equipment, software, internet connectivity and energy. In addition the unequal power relations between men and women contribute to differential access, participation and treatment, with regards to accessibility and usage of ICTs. Indeed women face challenges that generally impede their integration into the information society namely: lack of resources, low literacy and education levels and time constraints due to multiple roles. It is therefore important that Government establishes programmes for accessibility and training in ICT, for rural communities as well as schools and institutions to help improve coverage in the rural areas with a special focus on women.
Women and the media

The media and women hold a very mutual relationship, as the media is universally known to be essential in any democratic and governance process. The media in Uganda has been a very instrumental ally in raising popular awareness and support for women’s rights, as well as raising awareness. There has been a marked expansion in: the growth of the local advertising industry and the development of young upcoming female and gender sensitive artistes in the film making industry, hence promoting behavioural change and the transformation of gender relations and stereotyping.
Unfortunately the media continues to: marginalise women, trivialise their issues and paint negative images of them. The media has been commercialised and privatised, producers and editors have underlying commercial interests, which are often not about empowering women. There is abuse of women’s bodies and portrayal of negative “sex sells’ images like pornography and the presentation of women as sex objects. Similarly the media continues to portray women in stereotypical roles and images, especially since the industry offers quick money to unemployed young women, willing to trade off their right to privacy in many of the pornographic media houses.

The Change We Want to See

1. Expansion of the Digital Science Teaching component of the Cyber Schools Technology Solutions Programme, supported by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), to promote increased and wider use of ICT in rural schools

2. Increased resource allocation to UCC’s Rural Communications Development Fund, so as to equip more rural pupils with computers

3. Gender sensitive media policies developed, to ensure that media programmes do not promote gender stereotyping

4. Affirmative Action policies developed to ensure gender equality, in the appointive positions on public ICT boards and heads of ICT Institutions

5. Investment in the use of ICTs in education (formal and informal) and in the establishment of establishment of rural ICT Centres, to promote accessibility and usage by women

6. Self regulatory mechanisms developed for all media houses, in order to address the exploitation of women’s bodies for pornography and to promote the right to women’s privacy, as well as respect for their bodily integrity and personhood.

Women's Agenda, Pillar No.6: Environment

Background to the Thematic Pillar: Environment

In Uganda today pressures on water, environment and natural resources due to weather and climate change variability, are intensifying and provide increasing challenges for service delivery. The effects of poor land use practices, ecosystems degradation and inadequate enforcement on compliance, has led to declining water levels as well as the drying and pollution of water resources. Population pressure due to high growth rates has resulted in environmental degradation through the massive encroachment on forests, wet lands and other fragile ecosystems for cultivation, grazing and habitation, as well as the poor disposal of solid and liquid waste. This has triggered off multiple social, economic, political and environmental effects, thus affecting women who are the largest users of land .

Government has put in place elaborate environmental laws, regulations and standards to guide the management of environmental resources. However, the level of compliance is still very low, leading to the misuse and degradation of the environment. Furthermore the environmental mainstreaming measures in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and Local Governments, are weak due to among other things lack of institutional capacity and funding.

6.2 Key Priorities Within the Thematic Pillar: Environment

The Impact of Environment degradation on women

Women play a critical role in the development of sustainable and ecologically sound management systems, for the environment and natural resources. They engage with the environment for: sources of energy, materials for building family shelters, sources of water and subsistence living, mainly through agriculture and herding. Thus in almost all communities those at risk and affected more severely during all phases of natural disasters are women. Disaster, economic and conflict induced displacement have devastating impacts on women, who are forced to leave their communities as they migrate internally in search of shelter and livelihood, thus exposing themselves to various forms of danger.

The impact of Climate Change on women

Global warming, climate change and the inter-related impacts that they bring about, take a heavy toll on communities with the devastation of crops caused by climatic events such as: changing patterns of rainfall, floods, landslides and drought. Women being the primary caretakers of the family, are often the first to become aware of environmental changes, as resources become scarce, affecting their means of livelihood and the very sustenance of their families. Due to their increased likelihood of living in poverty and their gendered social roles, women are more likely than men, to die in climate change-related disasters and to suffer from increased workload, the burden of fuel and water collection, violence, health problems and the loss of income in the aftermath of such events.

The critical role women play in utilising and managing the environment and natural resources, must be recognised and integrated in all strategies for addressing issues of the environment. Women must be involved in the planning and implementation of environmental conservation programmes and their voices should be heard and integrated in policy making at all levels.

The Change We Want to See

1. Greater participation of women at all levels, in the planning, management and preservation of the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources

2. Well resourced, timely and gender responsive disaster management interventions

3. Increased investment in research on alternative and renewable energy sources and other appropriate technologies, while facilitating women’s access to and participation in their control

4. Mechanisms established and effective communication strategies developed for women and communities on issues of climate change and the environment

5. Set targets for women’s groups to benefit from Carbon Credits and facilitation of their participation through training, allocation of land and resources

6. Protection of water sources from private ownership for public good and restriction on the leasing of sections of water bodies, which makes them inaccessible to the people, particularly women

7. Investment in the preparation of communities for disaster and the provision of disaster management interventions that are well resourced, timely and responsive to the specific needs of women.

Women's Agenda, Pillar No.5: Education

Background to the Thematic Pillar: Education

Government has invested significant resources to promote the UPE and USE programmes. Funding has been secured to improve infrastructure through the building of classrooms, latrines, science rooms and libraries. In addition funds have been allocated for the improvement of water and sanitation facilities in schools. However in spite of these interventions girls and women still have lower literacy levels compared to men and boys, which limits their personal development and their participation in the other processes. Government and parents therefore need to pay renewed attention to the retention of the girl child in school.

The quality of education has remained a major source of contention with key concerns being about the inability to focus on education that enhances innovation and encourages people to think and explore their abilities. The education curriculum is based on assessing the capacity to pass exams and not on holistic development such as: competence for survival, analytical skills; understanding gender diversity and capabilities, hence making it irrelevant in the new world order. Other challenges faced in implementing the UPE and USE programmes identified in the past have been: sharing of sanitary facilities by boys and girls; failure to make UPE compulsory and negative cultural and societal attitudes, towards girl’s education and women’s empowerment.

Concerns have also been raised with regard to gender stereotypes and instilling of gender roles through educational materials that disregard the other positive roles that women play, beyond reproduction and domestic labour. Furthermore sexuality and gender education is still very limited. This affects the teachers and learners ability to critique harmful social and traditional practices and to understand how the power relationships between men and women, boys and girls, impact on gender, sexuality and sexual relations.

5.2 Key Priorities Within the Thematic Pillar: Education

Girl’s Performance and Retention

The quality of primary education is affected by a combination of factors such as: absence of regular inspection; inadequate instructional materials; automatic promotion of pupils; high levels of absenteeism by teachers and poor terms and conditions of service, among others. Completion rates have remained low and this is worse among girls. Completion rates were at 30% in 2007, and had dropped to 25% in 2008 . Key factors that explain high girl child drop-out after primary four are: poor sanitation in schools, early marriages and the widespread preference for educating boys at the expense of girls. Girls are also still largely underrepresented in technical and science subjects.
Functional Adult Literacy

Functional Adult Literacy has taken root in Uganda and it is encouraging to note that there is overwhelming demand for it in the whole country. 85% of attendees are women with an average of two classes per sub-county. This is advantageous but at the same time challenging as more men control household resources and decision making and it is important that they too have to be literate. In addition, there is a draft Non-formal Adult Education Policy that streamlines the operation of adult literacy.

Indeed the available resources cannot meet the overwhelming and increasing demand for FAL. There is inadequate supply of instructional materials and the reliance on voluntary literacy instructors, which negatively affect the implementation of the program. Many women are not reached by FAL and yet their level of literacy affects their effective participation in leadership and local governance. Other challenges in implementing the programme are: the limited access to functional literacy by persons with special learning needs due to lack of trained literacy instructors in Braille and sign language and the lack of an effective information management system also affects the program since there are no up to date statistics.
The Change We Want to See

1. Review of the Affirmative Action Policy in the education sector, to promote the enrolment of girls in Teacher Training Colleges and Polytechnics

2. Increased investment in Polytechnics that cater for primary education drop outs, the majority of whom are girls

3. Enforcement of laws and regulations that encourage girl’s enrolment and retention in schools, while addressing barriers to their education such as: child sacrifice, sexual harassment, FGM, early marriages and the lack of sanitary towels

4. Re-designed training curriculums in all institutions of education, to ensure that they are gender responsive

5. Improved conditions of service for teachers and provision of incentives to ensure quality education and the retention of staff

6. Development of a gender responsive policy and implementation of regulations, for the effective implementation of the Business, Technical and Vocational Training (BTVET) Act

7. Increased resource allocation to Universal Secondary Education, to ensure the provision of quality education

8. Increased resource allocation for FAL and finalisation of the draft Non-Formal Adult Education Policy, in order to streamline and promote the coverage of FAL country wide.

Women's Agenda, Pillar No. 4: Health

Background to the Thematic Pillar: Health

Uganda’s health indicators are generally low for all social categories and worse for women. About 16 women in Uganda die every day from pregnancy and childbirth related complications many of which are preventable. The maternal mortality rate reduced from 527 to 435 per 100,000 live births between 1995 and 2006, but still remains very high. For every one maternal death, about 20 neonatal deaths occur. Only 47% of women attend the recommended 4 times of antenatal care visits to health facilities and only 23% of the women in Uganda get postpartum care during the first two days following child birth. Teenage pregnancy estimated at 25 percent in 2006, is amongst the highest in sub- Saharan Africa and significantly contributes to the overall maternal mortality rate .

The provision of basic health services is affected by corruption in the delivery of drugs the absenteeism of staff and service providers, as well as poor terms and conditions of service, which lead to low motivation amongst medical staff. The smooth and effective implementation of government programmes especially at sub-county level is impeded by inadequate capacity.

These challenges greatly affect women who are care givers and shoulder the burden of care for the sick. Women further bear the brunt of ensuring that water is available for household use which has increased their labour demands especially during the dry seasons. This, impacts on women’s health, increases disease burden and as such render women less productive.
4.2 Key Issues Within the Thematic Pillar: Health

Masculinities and Male Health Seeking Behaviour

Patriarchy plays a great role in the health status of women. Patriarchal social relations, structures and systems are embedded in other oppressive and exploitative structures, which promote men’s access to and control over resources and rewards, within the private and public sphere. Hence, men access more information and make many decisions for themselves and women yet, they have very low health seeking behaviour. Masculinities hinder men from seeking counselling, support and care. This affects and down plays the achievements so far registered in the area of women and health.

In the fight against HIV/AIDS, male health seeking behaviour has become a major point of concern, as men generally do not seek healthcare in good time, have multiple partners and do not seek VCT counselling. This is further exacerbated by the fact that adherence levels amongst men are lower compared to those of women.

Trauma and Mental Health

Due to the normalised and ever increasing rates of actual and perceived violence in the public and private spheres and in post conflict areas, women need special attention. Women experience violence in a different way from men and therefore require special focus from the health sector, with particular attention to trauma and mental health illnesses that impact, on their general well-being.

Women and Girls Living with HIV/AIDS

With support from the USAID/PEPFAR, the Government of Uganda has been able to enrol 76,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) onto Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) and to provide laboratory equipment and supplies. This represents an estimated 50% of all persons living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. In addition, as at 2009, 465,000 individuals received free/voluntary counselling and testing in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programs. There are also clinical trials for technologies controlled by women such as, microbicides and HIV vaccines.

HIV/AIDS has been mainstreamed in sector plans and the Medium Term Expenditure Framework. The development of a National Priority Action Plan, HIV/AIDS Mainstreaming Policy and a law on HIV/AIDS are underway. Similarly a national policy for addressing HIV/AIDS at the workplace has also been formulated. Government has also set aside funds for procuring ARVs using its own resources, rather than depend on donors. Furthermore the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) is in the process of establishing a functional database for HIV/AIDs and a National HIV Policy. The Ministry of Local Government has equally integrated HIV/AIDs in the local government programmes. There are currently 80 Local Government HIV/AIDs Focal Points, appointed to oversee the integration of HIV/AIDs concerns at local government level.

Despite these interventions however, women and girls still bear the burden of HIV/AIDS due to the inherent power relations; their reproductive roles and existing negative cultural practices such as polygamy; early marriage, bride price, wife inheritance and property grabbing which make them even more vulnerable. The mean age of young women’s infection is lower compared to their male colleagues in all age cohorts, due to cross-generational sex and sexual violence. Women are prone to discrimination as they tend to test and often know their status earlier than their partners, due to their reproductive roles that require them to undergo VCT. In light of the global economic crisis; history of abuse and the embezzlement of funds meant to support HIV/AIDS; there are concerns about the sustainability of HIV/AIDS funding as it impacts on the provision of free ART to women.

The Change we Want to See

1. Allocation of sufficient resources for the implementation of Government commitments made under the Abuja Declaration on Health, the AU Commitment on the Campaign on the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa and the National Roadmap on Maternal health

2 Increased funding to ensure functional and accessible health services, as well as improved remuneration of medical personnel.

3 Support and operationalisation of the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in health care service provision.

4 Expeditious adoption of the Uganda Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Policy (2009) and the operationalisation of the Central Coordination Institution/ Centre on Disaster Management, so as to strengthen the country’s preparedness for disasters and epidemics

5 Integration of components of advocacy against Sexual and Gender Based Violence, in HIV Counselling, Care and Support

6 Increased support and funding to HIV research and interventions aimed at technologies controlled by women, such as Microbicides studies and HIV Vaccines

7 Renewed commitment to providing HIV Treatment, Care, Support to address the challenge of HIV/AIDs country wide

Women's Agenda, Pillar No. 3: Human Rights and the Law

Background to the Thematic Pillar: Women, Human Rights and the Law

Uganda is a State Party to various international and regional instruments that guarantee the rights of women. Progress has also been made in designing and implementing measures to eliminate discrimination against women through the legal and policy framework.

However despite this progress women in Uganda still continue to be victims of discrimination and harmful practices. Several other challenges also remain such as the: existence of cultural and traditional practices that discriminate against women and the girl child, persistence of patriarchal patterns of behaviour, low literacy levels among women that impede their access to social services and their participation in economic activities, a high prevalence of poverty, a very slow law reform process, and ineffective mechanisms for the enforcement of women's rights.

These challenges are compounded by the lack of awareness amongst women of key conventions on the rights of women ratified by Government, making it difficult for the citizens to demand and exercise their rights, even in situations where an enabling legal and policy environment is in place.

While it is appreciated that women have made achievements in public spaces, there still is immense oppression in the private spaces and at the personal level. This translates into women not having control over their bodies, as well as other productive resources. Equality and decision making in the home eludes women across all social classes. Due to normalised discrimination and violence there are increasing cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) targeted at women and girls, yet victim reporting is highly unlikely in family settings and private spaces where the majority of abuse takes place unchecked. Further violence takes place in the form of: sexual slavery, violence meted on women in armed conflict, wife beating, as well as sexual and psychological abuse and ensures that perpetrators of such violence are prosecuted and held accountable for their actions.

Patriarchal ideology enables and legitimizes the structuring of every aspect of women’s lives including the law by establishing frameworks within which society defines and views men and women and constructs male supremacy and other entrenched practices such as polygamy and bride price. Thus civil society and the women’s movement have continuously challenged the constitutionality of some laws such as: The Penal Code Act, The Succession Act, the Divorce Act; Constitutional petition on FGM among others.

Despite the progress made to date, major structural and systemic challenges still remain in pursuit of a life of dignity and women’s enjoyment of human rights in all spheres economic, social, legal and cultural. Women are firmly convinced that any law, policy, programme, and practice in Uganda that hinders or endangers the physical and psychological development of women and girls, should be condemned and outlawed.

3.2 Key Priority Areas Within the Thematic Pillar: Human Rights and the Law

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) of Women

Uganda has the 3rd highest population growth rate in the world estimated at 3.2 percent. It also has one of the highest fertility rates with an average of 7 children per woman. The high population growth rate is attributed to existing imbalances in gender relations in families that narrow the range of choices for women regarding their sexual and reproductive rights and foster women’s vulnerability to sexual abuse. High fertility rates have been linked to insecurity of land tenure for many married women, lack of access to family planning services and a social security system for the elderly that promotes security in increasing child births. The frequency of child births impedes women’s personal development, affects their health and that of their children and increases demand on their unseen and unremunerated labor: raising children and providing for large families.

The high fertility rates are also impacted by a number of sexual violations that Uganda’s adolescent female’s experience. These include: early/forced marriages; low status of the girl child; the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the world standing at 25% and limited access to contraceptives. There are also several other health concerns that affect women’s sexual and reproductive rights that arise from: obstructed labour, vesicle vaginal fistula, high maternal mortality rates; unsafe abortion, violence against women and lack of gender-sensitive sanitary facilities in schools

The status of SRHR is closely linked to poverty reduction and economic empowerment at household level. While the unwarranted suffering and death of a woman while giving birth is deplorable, there are also other significant social and economic challenges resulting from the death of a mother. These include: loss of the mother’s contribution to household management and child and family care; economic loss to the workforce and the loss of the unpaid labour that is often central to community life. Furthermore high infant mortality rates IMR are linked to the deaths of mothers.

Harmful Cultural Practices

Various traditions and cultural practices continue to undermine the dignity of women and to perpetuate the violation of their rights. There can be no meaningful development if women continue to be subjected to harmful cultural practices that undermine girls and women, the payment of bride price, widow inheritance, child marriages, polygamy, and female genital mutilation (FGM). Women are not protected from these practices and they continue to bear the distress of patriarchal oppression in the name of preserving culture, traditions and value systems.

Access to Justice

Women in Uganda continue to face several barriers that limit their access to justice. Whereas there are laws courts and police stations mandated to protect the rights of women, the culture of impunity, still makes it difficult for women to access justice. The justice and security sectors lack the requisite skills, knowledge and competences needed to address the unique violations that women face.

Unequal power relations and a patriarchal legal regime has resulted in the denial of basic rights for millions of women in the country. Many laws and policies, themselves rooted in patriarchy, are grossly inadequate in addressing gender based human rights violations. Women are faced with problems of accessibility, associated with poverty, lack of awareness, and the slow pace of the justice systems in terms of investigation and court proceedings. Many affected women are not supported to overcome the cultural and institutional challenges in their quest for justice.

Government needs to reform the justice institutions and the legal regime in order to enhance women’s access to justice.

The Change We Want to See

1. Expeditious enactment of gender legislation and development of policy with special focus on the Marriage and Divorce Bill, the Muslim’s Personal Administration Bill, the Sexual Offences Bill and the National Sexual Harassment Policy

2. Amendment and repealing of the laws declared null and void by the Constitutional Court in the recent past namely: the Penal Code Act, the Succession Act and the Divorce Act

3. Implementation of the: Domestic Violence Act; Trafficking in Persons Act and the Female Genital Mutilation Act

4. Establishment of a policy on women’s shelters and provision of 5 shelters nationally, (at least 1 per region) to help women in distress

5. Capacity building and training in ethical and professional conduct, for law enforcement agencies and officers, so as to uphold justice and safe guard the dignity of victims of sexual offences

6. All the laws of Uganda reviewed in line with the Constitution, with regards to the affirmative action policy and gender equality and equity, for marginalized groups

7. Registration of Births and Deaths systems reinforced and updated, to enhance the provision of reliable information on the age of girls, thus protecting their Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights

8. Development of a comprehensive civic education program, with particular focus on human rights and the rights of women, children, workers and persons with disabilities

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Women's Agenda, Pillar No. 2: Economic Empowerment

2.1 Background to the Thematic Pillar: Women and Economic Empowerment

Macro-economic policies and stability have been achieved at the expense of horizontal and vertical inequalities in Ugandan society. The pre-occupation with macroeconomic stability and investment competitiveness has relegated social welfare, social security, and human development issues to the backyard of policy and official thinking. As such, Uganda has no robust social protection policy and programmes that would be of benefit to women and men, allowing for the delivery of a minimum level of services. This therefore implies that while there has been increasing focus on macroeconomic stability, paradoxically men and women’s poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor, men and women has further widened.

In addition, at the moment, the poverty index mainly captures income elements hence women’s poverty is hardly captured and as a result often not addressed or prioritised in development planning and budgetary allocations. There is therefore dire need to develop an index for the measurement of poverty through a composite index that takes into account both per capita income and the consumption index, and at the same time captures the non-income elements of poverty ( like social networks, access to information, power and asset bases, etc,).

In the area of agriculture where a majority of the actors are women, interventions have been mainly through the restructuring of the National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS) within the framework of the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA), to support and strengthen the achievement of “Prosperity for All” (PFA) objectives.

Nonetheless, in spite of these achievements, women are still poorer than men, they find challenges accessing larger loans (besides small microfinance), are affected by the high fertility rate and the burden it imposes on them, in terms of childcare labour, food security and health risks that affect their economic empowerment.

2.2 Key Priority Areas Within the Thematic Pillar: Women and Economic Empowerment

Women and Land

Women have unequal access to, ownership and control of land and other resources. This affects their ability to access other productive resources and impedes their economic, social and political status. This is especially so since the majority of women rely on land for their livelihood.

Therefore, the recognition and strengthening of the land rights of women, girls and children is very justifiable in their social contexts. Key among the major areas of concern are the elimination of all discriminatory laws and practices in the manner in which access, control, ownership and transmission of land rights are determined. Other critical areas of concern for women under land include: co-ownership of land; representation of women on land administrative structures and compliance by banking institutions to seeking spousal consent in instances of transactions relating to and affecting family land.

Youth Employment

Uganda’s population dynamics indicate that the country has a predominantly young population with 56% of the population below 18 years of age. This therefore implies that systematic and strategic initiatives have to be in place to absorb the young in meaningful employment and tap into their productive energies.

The rate of job creation is not commensurate with the high rate of growth of the workforce and while Government has created opportunities for young people to find jobs, the unemployment and underemployment of the youth, continues to be a growing concern for the country. The Labour Market Conditions Report released by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) in May 2009, indicated that while 400,000 Ugandans, including 20,000 University graduates join the workforce yearly, only 18,000 jobs are created. This situation is worse for female youth who also face threats of sexual harassment in the bid to get jobs. There is a challenge of educating the population about their rights and obligations under existing labour legislations especially where workers are not formally organized into trade unions.

Women in Business in Formal and Informal Sectors

Women, make up a majority of the population engaged in small businesses and the informal sector. In addition, there has been a slow but steady increase of women owned businesses and small-scale industries providing employment and sources of income and revenue.

However, these businesses face a number of challenges which include: lack of a decentralised and automated Registry of Companies; lack of a storage system for company trademarks; delays in the operationalisation of the Centre for Arbitration and Dispute Resolution and the general lack of counterpart funding from MoFPED to support women’s enterprises. In addition, to date, there are limited Government incentives for small businesses to become formal enterprises. The funding made available for supporting training programmes for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) in good economic governance and management principles, standards and codes is also inadequate.

Many women have not accessed funds from the PFA programme because they are largely controlled by men and women lack information on the systems and criteria for accessing the funds. Therefore there is need to effectively communicate the institutional arrangements for delivery and access to the PFA resources.

The tendering processes at national and district levels also tend to favour men as they often have the networks, information and collateral that is required to secure the bank guarantees. There is therefore need to ensure that the tendering process at the national and district levels is engendered and affirmative action adopted, to support women’s access to tender biddings. In addition, the 30% women’s representation in tender boards and the District Service Commissions is yet to be realised and often gender is sacrificed, on the pretext of failure to get qualified women to occupy such spaces.

Development Finance for Women

Financing for women in Uganda has been mainly through the provision of micro-credit schemes that hold women in the poverty bracket as the funds are rather small, have high interest rates and are realised through group collateral since the majority of women do not own assets for bigger loans. In addition, women entrepreneurs generally lack access to information and therefore cannot access big loans, hence the necessity for affirmative action, in development finance.

Access to Markets and Information

Women are the main producers in the agricultural and informal; sectors, however their ability to make substantial income from these sectors is hindered by the production-marketing chain that is largely controlled by male middle men. For women to sell at better prices and be competitive producers, they must have value addition and be part of the marketing chain. In addition, as producers they often lack timely information on markets and economic trends and this affects their ability to effectively negotiate business transactions. There are also gender-based structural barriers such as sexual harassment and security of women traversing borders.

Government programmes such as PMA and NAADS have been accused of not addressing the structural gender challenges. They tend to benefit the rural men and in practice have promoted less value addition to produce. There is therefore need to enhance NAADS and PMA and to ensure the involvement of women in the planning and implementation of these programmes.

Women’s Labour Rights

Poorer paid jobs are still allocated to women, who suffer enduring discrimination across their working lives because of the interruptions of child birth and childcare. Many women are thus confined to the CSO sectors and the public sector and the few that engage in the private sector are confined to mainly menial work. Under the pressures of combining parenthood and work, the percentage of women in the formal higher paying labour force, has declined in recent years.

While the Government has made progress with regards to the domestication and adoption of International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, codes and standards as well as the enactment of national laws in the area of labour rights. Several challenges still exist in domesticating them and ensuring that women enjoy these rights. Key among the challenges are that the labour laws enacted in 2006 are yet to be fully operationalised. Further there are inadequate regulatory, implementation and monitoring mechanisms for ensuring compliance and the respect of women’s rights, especially in the private sector.

With the advent of the global economic crisis many women have lost their jobs and their sources of livelihood. Unfortunately the majority of women fall outside the ambit of the formal social security facility, being employed in the informal sector. This situation compounds the existing challenge, the majority of women face with regard to the politics of the private-public dichotomy that results in the domesticity of women’s labor, with no value attached to their domestic, unrecognized, unremunerated labor.

Corporate Governance

While there is increasing awareness about Corporate Governance, entrenching Corporate Governance practices in Uganda’s corporate spheres is still a challenge. Further challenges lie in monitoring and ensuring the integration of women’s needs, amongst the private sector and non state actors. Further with no clear channels for funding requests and the absence of state mechanisms for coordinating priority corporate governance issues implemented by the private sector agencies, women’s issues and concerns fall by the sidelines.

There have also been challenges in making funding available to the private sector to develop simplified corporate governance guidelines and accounting standards for SMEs and informal sector businesses. As a result, the mainstreaming of good corporate governance principles has been undermined. This has constrained efforts by government to increase the domestic fiscal resources generated from the SMES, operating in the informal sector where the majority of women are found.

Oil and Gas Management

There is anxiety over the management of oil revenues. This is exacerbated by limited government structured knowledge and institutionalised fora for nation-wide public awareness and engagement in the debate on proposed legislation on oil and gas. The Oil and Gas Policy 2008, provides a blue print for management of the oil and gas resources. The policy is aimed at regulating the production, management and use of the oil and gas resources.

Whereas government will put in place a sustainable asset in the form of a Petroleum Fund to store revenues not in the national economy, it is hoped that Government will ensure the collection and proper use of revenues received from oil and gas activities and publish this information regularly.
It is important that the sectors that address women’s strategic and practical needs, benefit from the revenue generated by oil and gas. Government should also make deliberate effort to provide women with information and communication on the oil and gas policy.

The Change we Want to See

1. A Macro Economic Policy that is pro-women, pro-poor and equitable and also addresses horizontal and vertical poverty

2. Adherence to participatory gender sensitive planning, budgeting and monitoring and evaluation, in all development plans and programmes

3. At least 10% of all budget allocations to development programmes, allocated to programmes focusing on women’s specific needs

4. Amendment of the Income Tax Act, to provide for incentives and tax waivers for private sector employers, that have a minimum of 30% female employment, at all levels of their organisational structures

5. Female youth employment prioritised as a key area of national concern, within the next five years and the progressive increment of funding for youth specific initiatives

6. Adoption of the draft policy on Youth Employment, so as to address sexual harassment and the abuse of young women

7. Transparent and equitable distribution of funds derived from oil and other natural resources, with a 10% allocation of these resources to sectors that directly benefit women

8. 50:50 gender parity, in all decision making structures that manage natural resources

9. Amendment of the Land (Amendment) Act and other relevant laws, to provide for the co-ownership of matrimonial property by spouses

10. Development of policies and programmes to address the drivers of high fertility rates, which adversely impact women’s economic empowerment and national development

11. Increased opportunities for gainful and productive employment targeting women, through scaling up formal and informal education and skills training

12. Promotion and protection of women’s labour rights, in adherence to national and international labour obligations and standards

13. Adherence to national and international health and safety standards, for the safety, security and mitigation of occupational hazards, for women in all spheres of employment

14. Establishment of clear, measurable and practical actions, to address women’s income and consumption poverty, access to credit, information and markets e.t.c

15. Tendering and procurement processes reviewed at local government level, to take into account affirmative action and promote women’s participation

Women's Agenda, Pillar No. 1: Democracy and Political Governance

1. Democracy and political governance

1.1 Background to the Thematic Pillar: Democracy and Governance

Governance and Democracy are critical tenets of development and the enjoyment of human rights, especially women’s rights. Democracy is a system through which all citizens have a right to participate in their governance from the national level, sub-national, right down to the family. The participation of women at all levels of decision making in every sphere of society is crucial. Substantive democracy cannot exist without the equal participation of women.

In a multiparty democracy, political parties provide space, offering alternative leadership and policy, thereby giving direction to the development agenda. Likewise political parties should provide spaces for women to build alternative leadership from the grassroots to national levels. Unfortunately the ratio of women to men in the public sphere does not reflect the population stratum of 51% women. Women make up 32% in parliament (mainly due to the creation of new districts each with a woman member of parliament). Traditional prejudices, rising levels of religious, economic, political and cultural fundamentalism, low literacy levels and systemic discrimination, affect women’s effective participation and enjoyment of democratic space. There is also evidence of lack of political will and the “trading off” of women’s issues by political parties and organisations, as well as the government.

1.2 Key Priority Areas Within the Thematic Pillar: Democracy and Governance

Constitutionalism, Rule of Law and Justice

Constitutionalism, the rule of law and justice are paramount in the fostering of democracy and good governance in every nation. In Uganda today the duty bearers called to promote these three tenets have been found wanting in the execution of their duties and in many instances are the perpetuators of injustice and the promoters of conflict and electoral related violence. Key questions arise regarding the impartiality of security organs and public officers such as RDCs, Ministers, District Chairpersons etc and their use of public resources for partisan purposes.

It is alarming to note that the institutions supposed to protect citizens’ rights are the ones violating them, with women as major victims. This further entrenches the marginalisation of women in politics and other spheres and has the potential to undermine the achievements registered to date. Incidences of unacceptable forms of gender based violence targeting women politicians, by state organs especially the Police and Para military groups has been commonplace since the 2006 multiparty elections. This further entrenches the marginalisation of women in politics and has the potential to undermine the achievements registered to date.

The appreciation of constitutionalism, the rule of law, the separation of powers, citizen’s rights, duties and obligations cannot be enriched in Ugandan society without continuous civic education. Sadly the people of Uganda lack an on-going comprehensive civic education programme educating them about democracy and governance. In the 2006 general elections, limited and sporadic civic education was undertaken regarding the multiparty system of politics which partially explains the apprehension towards multi-partyism.

Women in Leadership, Politics and Decision Making

Women’s participation in politics and decision making encompasses women in political parties; civil society, the public and private sector. There is wide acknowledgment of the increased numbers of women in public spaces however, women constitute 51% of Uganda’s population and the numbers in leadership positions in Uganda today, do not match the demographic gender representation. With multipartyism in its infancy, women’s participation is constrained by unequal opportunities within the party structures and the social system, which underrates women’s capacities. Currently the risk to women’s life and dignity in politics is higher than in the past, as many women are subjected to abuse and violence. Furthermore the gender stereotyping of women, leads to their “ghettoisation” in political parties and the electoral process, thus hindering their acquisition of key leadership positions.

The fundamental laws to ensure a credible electoral process are in existence however, there is need to ensure that implementation of the amended provisions is gender responsive. Similarly the Political Parties and Organisations Act 2005, provides for a Code of Conduct and a National Consultative Forum but neither were engendered to make provision for women’s concerns and gender parity.

Capacity of the Electoral Commission and Credibility of the Electoral Processes

Cross sections of stakeholders have in the recent past expressed lack of trust in the EC and questioned its impartiality. Furthermore, the Commission is largely perceived as lacking independence from the Executive. In addition, between elections and ahead of elections the work of the EC is highly constrained by inadequate and untimely resources: human, financial and infrastructure, which hinder the Commission from effectively fulfilling its mandate.

Sceptical of the countries’ ability to achieve free, transparent, fair and peaceful elections; a number of stakeholders including civil society, have been advocating for electoral reforms and changes in the composition of the Electoral Commission. Advocates had confrontations with the police, which resulted in the violation of rights to assembly, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment and the right to dignity. Some of the other concerns about the electoral process are: the legitimacy of electoral outcomes; irregularities in voter registration, voter intimidation, disenfranchisement, and media access during elections.


The nature and extent of corruption in Uganda, has been an issue of concern in governance as it affects delivery of services and negatively impacts the quality of life. As women in Uganda, corruption greatly affects the realisation of our needs and livelihoods.

Uganda has one of the strongest anti-corruption frameworks and mechanisms, which rank among the best in Africa. Government has made great strides in formulating the legal framework within which to fight corruption, with a total of ten laws and three bills. Work to harmonise all the laws, policies and institutions involved in the fight against corruption is on-going. The capacity of the Inspectorate General of Government (IGG), to implement the Leadership Code Act has been strengthened with trainings of IGG staff in forensics and investigative skills, among others. The Anti-corruption Court is now fully functional . These developments are a clear indication of Government’s commitment to combining legal measures, with institutional frameworks, in order to enhance transparency and accountability.

Paradoxically, the nature, extent and levels of corruption are alarmingly high at national and local levels. This has been attributed to the: lack of political will and commitment on the part of the government to implement recommendations of various anti-corruption agencies and commissions of inquiries; inadequate financial, human, technological and logistical capacities in the anti-corruption agencies; inherent weaknesses in public procurement; weak information management systems and public attitudes that tolerate corruption.

One other form of corruption according to a recent study by the World Bank is “quiet corruption”. This is where public servants fail to deliver services and government inputs, with their actions affecting the poor disproportionately and impacting long‐term consequences on development. Denied an education because of absentee teachers, children suffer in adulthood, with low cognitive skills. The absence of drugs and doctors results in unwanted deaths from malaria, childbirth related complications and other diseases, while the use of diluted fertilizers leads to crop failure, which results in low‐productivity agriculture . These levels of corruption largely affect women, the majority of whom are engaged in agriculture and are also the most frequent users of health facilities, being the care givers in families and the main beneficiaries of reproductive health services.

Decentralisation, Creation of New Districts and Administrative Structures

The bulk of women’s representation and participation in Uganda’s political public space is at local government levels. With decentralisation, more resources, power and leadership positions for citizen’s participation in governance, have been decentralised. This therefore is a strategic space that is crucial to garnering the numbers of women in decision-making positions.

At the local government levels, whereas the legal, policy and administrative frameworks for public participation in the monitoring and implementation of policies, plans and, programmes has been developed, the full and effective inclusion of women in their implementation continues to pose challenges. There are several challenges in garnering ownership of plans and programs especially: managing and absorbing public finances; corruption; abuse of office and the lack of capacity amongst the local and central governments to plan and budget for women’s strategic and practical needs beyond the International Women’s Day Celebrations at district levels.

The creation of new districts / administrative units is aimed at bringing services nearer to the people, increasing downward accountability and enhancing democratic governance. However, there are challenges, with the major one being the need to balance the rising cost of public administration and effective delivery of services. Currently the general perception amongst the public is that districts are being created to foster political clout and to gain Government favour among the population. It is unfortunate that this is being done as a means of political patronage rather than the provision of quality services and administration.

Inter and Intra Party Relations

In as far as inter-party relations are concerned; there is no mechanism yet to regulate intra as well as inter-party relations, discipline and conduct. The Code of Conduct for Political Parties is yet to be formulated.

Intra party relations have tended to be violent, marred with the failure to manage rowdy youth leagues. The 3 major political parties’ primaries have been marred with allegations of vote rigging, secretarianism, extreme violence, unethical conduct and character assassination. Related to this is the limited investment in building strong memberships from grassroots to national, regional and the Diaspora communities, that are able to appreciate the party ideals and hold each other accountable.

The ability of all the major political parties to fill positions freely and openly remains questionable, given capacity and resource constraints. For instance, the NRM Party faced tremendous challenges in organising primaries due to the huge number of positions available for the party to fill using adult suffrage. Likewise the FDC, DP and UPC Primaries for the Party Flag bearer were marred with violence and allegations of secretarianism, ageism, ethnicity, religious factions, and unending court battles challenging the legitimacy of the electoral processes and elected party flag bearers. As such therefore, the major political parties have been accused of violence, vote rigging, culminating into loss of trust, in the party electoral and nominations processes.

The intra and interparty dynamics have been disadvantageous to many women who: canvass wider constituencies compared to their male counterparts (those on affirmative action seats) or have to tussle it out with party “trade-offs” based on gender amidst fears of losing the positions in the general elections (women on open constituencies), as well as the monetary implications and loss of party memberships at the primaries.

The Change We Want to See

1. Gender parity (50/50) for all elective and appointive positions in parties, Local Government, Parliament, the Executive and other decision making structures

2. Review of the electoral process with key stakeholders after the 2011 elections:

- To re-think the composition of the EC and contribute to its re-constitution, in order to improve its legitimacy and credibility, and

- To explore alternative, fairer electoral systems e.g. Proportional Representation.

3. Women, Youth and PWDs councils re-aligned to the multi- party system

4. Amendment of the Political Parties and Organisations (Amendment) Act 2010, to ensure gender parity

5. Enactment of a code of conduct for political parties and organisations, integrating gender specific ethical issues

6. Resourcing and implementation of a comprehensive civic education programme that includes among others: democracy in a multiparty system and women’s rights

7. Implementation of existing laws such as: the Constitution, the Police Act, the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Act 2010 and the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Act 2010 and where gaps exist, enact relevant legislation to ensure violent free political processes

8. Implementation of punitive and compensatory measures, to address perpetrators and victims of election violence

9. Adherence to the law and human rights standards to ensure tolerance, dignity and respect, when engaging women in the electoral processes and the expeditious disbandment of para-military groups that undermine the rule of law

10. Ratification, domestication and implementation of the Protocol of the Court of Justice of the African Union 2003 and the African Union Convention for the Elimination of Mercenaries in Africa 1977

11. A comprehensive gender review of all electoral legislation and other relevant laws to ensure the promotion of women’s full and meaningful participation

12. Enactment of the Whistleblowers Bill; the Witness Protection Bill and the Anti-Money Laundering Bill, to reinforce the fight against corruption.

The Uganda Women's Agenda:Background and Preamble

Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE)
Published in Uganda

On behalf of The Women’s Movement


“Once again we make our voices heard, emphasising that we are equal by right, claiming our position at the center and refusing to be kept at the sidelines”

As Uganda gears up for another election in 2011, we once again come together to present our concerns and make our demands known to the political parties, impressing it upon Ugandans, that real development can only be realized when women’s issues are recognized as Uganda’s development issues.

FOWODE embarked on the development of the women’s agenda with the intention of creating a tool to inform political parties and other stakeholders about the concerns of the women of Uganda while detailing what the women would like the incoming Government to address. FOWODE carried out a survey across 22 districts of Uganda and gathered views from a cross section of women about the challenges they faced and how they would like them to be addressed. These views were shared at a Women in Politics Conference held in June, 2010 with a cross section of members of civil society, the academia, women leaders and politicians, from the key political parties of Uganda, who further input into the process. A key outcome of the discussions was the decision to hold further consultations with other groups of women that had not been reached.

A series of three consultative meetings were subsequently held with women representatives from: religious groups, the elderly, the academia – teaching and non teaching staff and women in small scale businesses. Following these consultations, a steering committee was set up to synthesize the findings and finalize the development of the Agenda.

The Production of the Uganda Women’s Agenda is part of a journey that the women of Uganda, The Women’s Movement and Women’s Organizations have taken since 1996 when women made history by being the first to develop the highly successful “The People’s Manifesto 1996” followed by “The Women’s Manifesto 2001”. When the country reopened up to pluralism in 2005, the women consulted nationally and developed a position paper on the Government White Paper on opening up Multipartyism as well as a set of demands; “Women’s Minimum Demands to Political Parties and Organizations”. This was subsequently followed by “The Women’s Manifesto 2006“


Many a time, convincing the public about the centrality of women and girls empowerment is an uphill task. Being a woman and a girl in Uganda remains uniquely perilous and as such women and girls generally languish at the bottom of most social development indicators. This Agenda aims at bringing to the forefront unique gender dimensions that various actors ought to address if real and meaningful development that allows for the total empowerment of Ugandan women and girls is to be achieved.

The women’s agenda is important for the following reasons:

§ Changing Times, Changing Strokes – Its undeniable that women and girls have over the last few years registered a number of achievements. Nonetheless, at the same time, new and other challenges keep arising such as: waning political will, rise in religious, economic and cultural fundamentalisms ,weaker states in the developed world, closing down of political space, discovery of oil resources, and the global economic crisis. Hence, just as the times are changing, women’s needs, desires, aspirations and demands are also ever evolving. The Agenda brings to the front key issues that women of Uganda have prioritized as being pivotal to their development.

§ Women have played and continue to play a key role in the democratic process in Uganda - As Uganda consolidates its multiparty democratic dispensation, women continue to play a pivotal role. Women are equally concerned about the country’s future, have participated and continue to be part of shaping the nascent democratic space, so as to hold a central place in both the reproductive and productive life of the country. Through this agenda, the women are contributing to the critical ongoing debate on priority concerns for the women of Uganda.

§ “Women’s Issues” are Uganda’s Development Issues: “Women’s Issues” matter in Uganda because they are development issues and women are a very important majority of the population whose contribution to the country is significant to its well-being. While it is appreciated that there are other processes like: The Citizens Manifesto; Political party manifestos, People’s Platforms and Agenda’s, the Women’s Agenda prioritises and specifically touches upon matters of critical concern to women in Uganda. It is therefore very important and critical that the architects of the future political structure in the Country take on board their views, aspirations and suggestions in the agenda.

§ The Power of Numbers: It is a well-known fact that the backbone of the economy rests and is retained on the shoulders of women who are the main producers and who make an immense contribution to the Gross National Product. The past 18 years of the NRM leadership clearly demonstrates the value and importance of legal and political support for vulnerable groups. Through affirmative action for women and vulnerable groups, the public and political interventions, programmes, policies and debates have benefited from the wealth and diversity of hitherto non-participating groups of citizens in the country.

§ There are factors that still disproportionately impact on women and girls - Despite their numerical strength, women continue to be disadvantaged in many facets of their lives. There is a genuine concern therefore that issues related to social service delivery, corruption, living standards, health, HIV/AIDS, life expectancy for expectant mothers, low levels of education for women, gender equality and conflict resolution continue to have a disproportionate impact on especially women and girls. The Women’s Agenda attempts to present a gender analysis and makes recommendations thus providing alternatives that would lead to the empowerment of women and girls.

The Uganda Women’s agenda is a political document that defines the key areas that the women’s movement will prioritise over the next 5 years. It sets out critical issues of concern to women across age, livelihood, religious affiliation, political ideology and makes demands for addressing them. It is a direct result of concern about the insufficient attention given to critical issues affecting women which have not significantly changed over the years.

Women as full and meaningful citizens of Uganda have the right, responsibility and obligation to be part of shaping their future and to contribute to the critical ongoing debate and processes in the country.

We are optimistic that through this agenda, the critical stakeholders will pay attention to the voices of women so as to ensure an improvement of the lives of the women of Uganda

Enjoy the Women’s Agenda 2010 and be part of our journey up to 2016.

Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE)


WE, THE WOMEN OF UGANDA being full and equal citizens of Uganda, living, working and residing in Uganda, as well as elsewhere;

GUIDED in the spirit of sisterhood, by a common agenda for the promotion of the rights of women as fundamental, non- negotiable and inherent human rights and having collectively participated in a series of consultative processes at the national and regional levels, in the quest for a Women’s Agenda for the next five years;

RECOGNISING that, Ugandan women are not homogenous being from various: backgrounds, social-economic classes, ages, groups, occupations, livelihoods, religious affiliations, ethnicities and political ideologies and that despite these rich diversities, women hold a shared commitment to a transformative agenda;

ACKNOWLEDGING the commendable measures the Government of Uganda, Civil Society Organizations, Development Partners and Political Parties have taken to promote the rights of women as well as their participation in politics and leadership. Further commending the courageous and tenacious women leaders and politicians, past and present, for daring to beat the path of emancipation, to ensure their daughters see a better day;
CONCERNED that while the status of women has advanced significantly in the last 25 years, progress has been uneven, gender inequalities have persisted and major obstacles to the advancement of women still remain. Further recognising that the struggle of advocating for women’s rights is political and as such, the need to use political means to question the legitimacy of the structures that keep women subjugated;

DEEPLY CONCERNED that despite the promulgation of the Constitution and the signing and ratification of various regional and international instruments, the passage of enabling laws and the domestication of instruments, is still wanting and as such the minimum principles and standards underlying women’s rights, have continuously been re - negotiated downwards, in the name of culture, religion and morality and pursuance of containment;
CLAIMING and asserting our right to champion the women’s movement in Uganda: owning our views, voices, histories and experiences, while further advancing the right to celebrate the long and rich tradition of the Ugandan Women’s struggle against patriarchy and our efforts to liberate women and girls;

NOW, WE THE WOMEN OF UGANDA, embrace our right and duty to play a pivotal role in shaping our nation’s destiny by elaborating the Women’s Agenda 2010 -2016 within ELEVEN MAJOR THEMATIC PILLARS AS THUS:
I. Democracy and political governance

II. Economic empowerment

III. Human rights and the law

IV. Health

V. Education

VI. Environment

VII. Information Communication and Technology

VIII. Women with special needs

IX. Peace, human security and dignity

X. Institutional mechanisms for the achievement of gender equality

XI. Uganda in regional and international contexts

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Women's Agenda and Women in Democracy

On Tuesday October 5th, 2010, Uganda women’s movement launched their agenda, ‘Equal by Right’ which sets out 11 pillars that will be the focus for Uganda’s women for the next five years. The launching, a glamorous event which was hosted by Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE); continues a tradition that is repeated by women activists every five years since 1996, to draw the attention of intending political candidates to women’s concerns. There was music, there was laughter, there were speeches and there was dancing but none of this could camouflage the truth that the only government dignitaries who attended were a civil servant from the Ministry of Health and a representative from the National Planning Authority who delivered a paper. No one from the President’s office, no one from the Prime minister’s office, No Cabinet minister or minister of state; and not a single representative from the Ministry handling the gender portfolio! Shame!

But that was not all. The Chief Guest, Miria Matembe lashed out at leaders of political parties who were invited but none other than Uganda Federal Alliance’s Beti Kamya, (perhaps because she is a woman)was officially represented. My brave attempt to defend FDC, saying I am a member of the National Executive, were met with scorn from those who knew that I was there in my personal capacity.

Nonetheless the content of our agenda is of significant value to all women and the first pillar on democracy and constitutionalism was of particular importance to me. I have had the distinct misfortune of finding myself at the frontlines of challenging the credibility of the electoral process in my own party. By so doing I have chosen (yet again) an unpopular path that pitches me against some very close and well respected party leaders. I risk isolation by standing stubbornly by principles that are held dear by many colleagues at a time when it is not convenient to do so. And in the process of expounding these principles the issue of gender has been raised in two ways.

The first is in the form of an accusation: You are being ‘emotional.’ Every woman leader knows that emotion is an effective tool used often against us. We must never wear our hearts on a sleeve. Now a man may rant and curse; he is only being assertive. A woman on the other hand is ‘emotional,’ weak and unhinged and therefore not to be trusted; if she does not conform to the expected norm within her community!

The second manner in which gender is used turns the first argument on its head and state: ‘These are strong women and the only time they plead gender is around elections.’ In other words these women are cowards who fear the ballot. Now this second argument has far reaching ramifications for my party and its commitment to being gender responsive. The argument demonstrates a clear failure to grasp the meaning of and reason for affirmative action. The reason we support and try our best to implement a 40% quota for women in all leadership positions in FDC is not to help ‘weak women’ to attain positions of leadership, but rather to mend a historical wrong resulting from a long tradition of patriarchy that shut women out of leadership positions. The party leadership must believe in the reason for implementing quotas and for supporting affirmative action and should not create positions for women as a favor to them otherwise we would have gone the way of tokenism which is what the NRM-O has done for the last 24 years.

The idea therefore should be to woo women, to encourage women and not to discourage women from taking up positions of leadership in all aspects of human endeavor which were unreachable. Our role as ‘strong women’ is to keep our parties honest and true to their promises to women. We do that by supporting each other within and across parties and resisting the temptation to pull each other down.